I remember when this pain was fresh. It was a balmy Sunday at J-Centre Mall, and I had been suppressing the hurt while I welcomed the people and handed out their church bulletins. The worship leader started singing,
“You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song“
– I know this song. I held my breath and kept smiling.
“I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God”
The song was beautiful but it didn’t feel true – I didn’t feel free. I felt like this pain was a pain I have to carry with me to the grave, a stain on my record, that I am less of a person because of what had happened to me.
By the time they were singing the bridge,
“We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom”
I dropped the papers on the table and walked away briskly. I hid in a nearby store and cried. I asked, “Lord, will I ever be free from this?”
This was years ago, but I’ve been wading through a lot of anger and grief lately. I go through waves of remembering. It’s been years since my deliverance but the healing is not yet done.
Do you feel that, too? As an older woman now, I feel awfully protective of my younger self and what she endured from offenders. I was so young. I didn’t know better. Why did they take advantage of me? For years, I believed it was my fault, and I was manipulated into thinking that I was overthinking it, it wasn’t wrong, but it was my fault all the same.
Hindsight is painfully clear. Back then nobody stood up for me, because I told nobody. Because I was told to tell nobody. The Lord yanked me out of it, delivered me, and hid me. God protected me from the very worst, but I was damaged, still. Most days it feels irreparable.
I’ve had a few triggers this week, so I’ve been sitting in a lot of anger and grief. I read stories of survivors of gaslighting and abuse. I felt mad. I saw my offender in the stories they told. I saw myself in the quiet and silence required to survive. I told my friends, the few people who knew, and they mourned with me.
If you’re enduring and mourning something awfully wrong and evil done to you, I want you to know that I feel your pain and wish I could defend you, too.
I read last night that it is healthy for us to mourn who we could have been if mental illness was not in the way. If the worst hadn’t happened to us. I came to the Lord and did just that – mourned the version of me I never met. The squeaky-clean, unscathed me, who dodged all the bullets, who was not taken advantage of. Who listened to all the warnings and ran at the onset. I feel like she was stolen from me and she never saw the light of day.
When I was a teen, I had lofty dreams for God and I. We were going to write the best things and we were going to inspire so many women and I would be whole. That didn’t happen. I stopped writing for over a year. I shut up because I hated the fact that the people who hurt me could read all my words, and they can shove their own meaning into what I said and turn it against me.
What if those things never happened to me? Will I be a better follower of Christ? I ask these as if I don’t already know that God uses our brokenness to work in our lives and spread His glory. That in our weakness, His power is made perfect. My anger is a loud voice, stomping around the halls of my heart, demanding justice, reparations, peace.
When I try to catch healing I find it very elusive. It’s hard to hold with closed fists.
It came to me as a surprise, to find God’s grace offensive. I am a student of the Word. I’ve pored over the doctrines of salvation and election and spent many hours basking in the mercy and grace of God. My life forever changed because of these. But it devastated me when I learned that God loves my offender as much as He loves me. It’s hard to swallow. I was meditating on Psalms yesterday – written by David, a man who had raped a married woman and covered his tracks by killing her husband – and thought, why would I listen to this man?
When the person who hurt me said his favorite verse was John 14:14 – “If you ask Me for anything in My name, I will do it” – I walked in disillusion for many months. Did he ask God to get away with the wrong things he did? Did God do it for him?
Oh, to see the depths of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy – when I see Him giving it to somebody I firmly believe does not deserve it. I thought I understood grace until I saw the person who hurt me walking away scot-free. What about me, Lord?
What about the years I spent constantly looking over my shoulder, the sleep that evaded me? Why does he wear a winner’s grin? I think of forgiveness, and who gets to decide it, because I know as a follower of Christ, I don’t. The Lord does. And Christ told me I had to forgive.
A bitter pill to swallow. I come to the Lord’s court, judge and jury.
Whenever I come to the Lord with my grievances I find comfort for my pain, and reason. I need God’s impartial reason. Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. He reflects my own heart back to me. Though your sins are like scarlet… though their sins are like scarlet, they shall be white like snow.
Why can I find comfort in the words and songs of adulterer, abuser, murderer David?
Why would any other woman find comfort in the words of broken, sinful me?
Because it’s not about either of us.
In the space of prayer, it’s only God and me. Only us. He doesn’t need to be convinced that I need justice. I don’t have to worry about whether or not God believes me, because I know He knows the truth. He doesn’t need me to clean my slate, because brokenness doesn’t appall Him. He doesn’t wince at the sight of my wounds and the evil of my heart – He bore them on the cross on my behalf.
What if all I needed to be whole was to believe that it’s already done?
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth).
It’s hard to live in the pain of being wronged. The voices are loud, the anger trashes your heart, keeps you under lock and key. We don’t have to live this way.
In one of my prayer times last week, I found myself praying for that person and saw myself not as a victim, but as a participant in that broken story. I mourned the evil that surrounded us. I mourned that it had to happen and it had to be him, and it had to be me. I asked the Lord for forgiveness and redemption. I so desperately want a new story for myself. Honestly, I even prayed that our paths will never have to cross again. But I was surprised to find it in me to wish that person all the best, and hope he never has to suffer what I’ve been suffering the last few years.
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
The Lord dwells in the most beautiful halls – clean and unstained and holy – and He also lives in me.
I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
creating praise on their lips.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”
When we wade through the waves of guilt, anger, pain – the Lord is with us – and He doesn’t only promise healing, He also promises peace. He promises to comfort us so much that we will end up worshipping Him.
May we live to see the redemption win and forgiveness overturn the buried hurts. May we believe the Lord when He tells us who we are – whole, beloved, to be used for His purposes. I hope to find all my words again one day. May we find the strength in our hearts to look back with a sigh and a band-aid on our sleeves, carrying the wisdom of being healed, and the gratitude of being forgiven, and the relief that our story is a story written by God Himself.
Oh, God is so good and patient with us, isn’t He? Here’s to learning and relearning the things on His heart, that they may change ours. Thank you for sitting with me today.